Film Making

Pre-visualising video with animatics by Glenn Dixon

Video above produced, filmed and edited by Glenn Dixon Visuals for Conduct’s Rapid Design and Validation process. Pre-visualisation was an essential part of the pre-production process.

Animatics are the first glimpse of a concept translated to video. They are storyboards edited to dialogue and music allowing the production team to experience motion and timing. Communicating through animatics reduces the ambiguity of orally describing a scene, shot or edit.

Many of my clients appreciate the experience of pre-visualising a video before we begin filming. When the project scope allows for the creation of an animatic, many issues can be identified and solved before they become problems further down the production pipeline. I aim for speed and clarity over beauty. The purpose is to clearly communicate and align on a vision. Together we undertake a rapid prototyping process until we are ready to proceed with the next stages of production.

My process involves photographing hand drawn storyboards and adding them to a Premiere Pro sequence. I record my own voice reading the script, source a sample music track and add these to the timeline. I time each storyboard to the script and music to see if the sequence I planned on paper works in a video. If I need to add a new shot, I will create a quick photoshop sketch and insert between existing storyboards. For a three minute video, I typically spend two - three hours on an animatic.

I’d like to sign off by sharing this spectacular and insightful side-by-side comparison between Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel and an original animatic.

Mini documentary: Los Reyes by Glenn Dixon

Los Reyes or The Kings is an annual festival in Spain celebrating the three kings' pilgrimage to Bethlehem. I’m not sure why an essential plot point such as this visit to a small town in Mallorca was omitted from the biblical account. I was visiting family in Llucmajor during this year's festival and created this short video piece. This is a beautiful celebration which honours intergenerational connection and a sense of personal belonging.

This footage was captured at 50 frames per second (fps) and conformed to 25fps in post-production. For me, the subtle use of slow motion compliments the emotions of the crowd. I would have loved some higher quality audio recording equipment however I only had my little Sony A7s and two lenses on me at the time. I included ‘atmos' sound captured via the cameras onboard microphone in the mix, those who speak Mallorquín may pick up some dialogue. 

Kenya Aid video campaign by Glenn Dixon

It's an incredible privilege to share the first video in a series of three I made for Kenya Aid, an Australian charity supporting health and education initiatives within a specific community of western Kenya. I was introduced to Verity and Ryan Snaith through Magda Newman, a mutual friend and Kenya Aid board member. In our early conversations, Magda described Kenya Aid with an infectious enthusiasm. I was captivated by the unique and unexpected stories and wanted to help share them.

Filmmaking process:

I conducted the interviews in Sydney last year at Kenya Aid’s ten year anniversary dinner. As Onesmus was in Australia for the event, it was a perfect opportunity to interview the stakeholders in one location. I came away with a rich story told through interviews but lacking vital contextual visuals from Kenya. In January of this year, Ryan visited Shikunga and captured video footage. I integrated Ryan’s video footage and existing photographs from the archive with the interviews I filmed in Australia to create the films.

My initial plan was to make one video that communicated the ‘why’ and ‘what’ behind the Kenya Aid initiative. A video that could be screened to sponsors and volunteers to build and strengthen the community. I soon realised that forcing these complex stories into a single video did not do them justice. I decided to make one video that introduced Kenya Aid then explore the health and education initiatives in depth via two subsequent videos. 

Visual considerations:

Kenya Aid's photographic archive contains images from trips spanning over ten years. Each visit was photographed by different people using different cameras. As a result, the images are varied in style and technical specification. An early temptation for me was to colour correct the photographs and footage so they felt like a harmonious portfolio. I soon realised the power of this story lay in the fact that a small group of people were meticulously addressing problems within the community over a long period of time and the ad-hoc nature of the photographs spoke to that. The fact that photographs and video were captured by volunteers with the technology at hand strengthened the story. 

Sound design:

To convey a sense of place, I used as much audio from location as possible. Mixed in behind the interviews is location audio that Ryan filmed using the onboard microphone. I found two pieces of music by composer Abbas Premjee that added an energy to the story while still grounding the characters in a place. I combined a non-diegetic sound with a ‘dip to black’ transition at the point where two photographs meet. This was to invite the audience into the cameras viewfinder the moment the picture was taken, as if they were the one taking the picture. 

Designing soundscapes for video by Glenn Dixon

"In the same way that painting, or looking at paintings, makes you see the world in a different way, listening to interestingly arranged sounds makes you hear differently." 

- Walter Murch | Film editor and sound designer.

Video above: I created this video exploring Paul's perspective on customer experience. Conduct are a digital focused customer and user experience design agency, based in Melbourne, Australia. They operate in the same building as me, in a loft across the hallway. Video best experienced with headphones.

While designing the soundscape for this film, I discovered you can make static objects feel dynamic if juxtaposed with interesting sounds. The inanimate physical objects in the film seemed lively when accompanied by sounds of those very objects being manipulated offscreen. While you cannot see the affinity diagram being created or the props being touched, I hope the soundscape invites the audience to imagine how it could feel to interact with these objects. 

Through experience, we associate certain objects with producing specific sounds. When wandering through the temples of Kyoto, I witnessed a buddhist monk striking a Bonsho bell with a mallet. I can still feel the powerful and profound metallic resonance. To me, the energy of the sound seemed to originate from the wooden floor beneath my feet. Video editing allows us to detach visual and aural associations and present sound and image in new ways. We can detach sound from a video clip and replace the original with anything we wish. What if that striking of the gong was accompanied by the warbled cry of a magpie? I'm excited by challenging our expectations of how things should sound and moving toward exploring how things could sound.

I’d like to sign off by acknowledging a fascinating film by New York based filmmaker Bas Berkhout. I love the energy Bas creates through the pacing of the edit and unexpected juxtaposition of image and sound. View the film on Vimeo via this link. In this podcast episode, the talented folk at 99% Invisible chat with sound designer Jim McKee about designing organic sounds for inorganic things.

Virtual EAL New Arrivals Program by Glenn Dixon

In April we travelled to four schools in regional Victoria to document the stories of three students who receive specialist English language support as part of the Virtual English As An Additional Language (EAL) New Arrivals Program. 

I was commissioned by the EAL and Multicultural Unit of the Department of Education and Training to create films promoting the program. Our objective is to raise awareness of the program within regional school networks and encourage more families to take up this valuable offering.  

I invited my father to join my on the road to share the driving and support the production. In the first week we visited Albert, a Nepali student attending Mitta Mitta Primary School. Next we drove to Murrayville to film Micaela, a South African student attending the Community College. The following week we were in Apollo Bay to capture the story of Art, a year 9 student recently arrived from Thailand. Once back in Melbourne we filmed at the Victorian School of Languages where the program is hosted and interviewed the teaching staff.

Students dial in to receive their weekly lessons via a video conferencing unit. When we arrived back to Melbourne, it was a surreal experience seeing the students again on screen during the lessons. Only days before I had been standing in those now incredibly distant rooms filming. For the teachers at the VSL, this webcam perspective is the view they typically see of their students - they don’t usually meet in person. I felt privileged in being granted a unique perspective, I know what lies slightly beyond view of the webcams frame. I have a modest insight into the contexts of the communities in which these students have recently settled. I know how the main street glows under light from the setting sun, I know the smell of the dust and the taste of the food at the only restaurant in town. It was a privilege to be invited briefly into these regional communities, to hear their concerns, empathise with their circumstances and celebrate their victories.